Sunday, July 29, 2012
To prod myself along in the heat, I found some agents that actually prefer e-mail queries, and sent several of those (no papers
to print, no packages to prepare, no errands into the heat zone). Preparing the query letters is getting easier, I guess.
I guess, because they haven't worked yet and it's hard to tell if a reject is due to the writing of the query letter or the
content, i.e., that they aren't looking for my particular subgenres. Contemporary or near-contemporary settings and central
characters are currently popular in both fantasy and science fiction and I've rejected all my attempts at either as horrible
dead-ends. If they specify that those are the focus of their interest, I don't waste their time by writing to them, but if
they don't specify and I can't find clues through their known clients...
29 jul 12 @ 9:32 pm
Still, relatively easy once I got the hang of what I could fit into a page in the absence of further guidance fom the agent's
web site on what kind of information they want and what they are interested in, or anything appropriate I can draw from their
The next batch will be to agents that want more than a query letter, then the ones that want hardcopy. The order doesn't
really matter but if the first steps are easier, the rest follow more readily no matter how complicated.
Writer's challenge: Write a word or two. Pick up another pen, preferably a different color, and write another word or two.
Repeat until you forget to change pens, and continue writing until you can't think of anything to write. Pick up another
pen, preferably a different color. Repeat at least one hour.
Writer's prompt: Incorporate a small toy, fruit, or household tool in a scene.
I imagine a paleography of handwriting class...
29 jul 12 @ 8:23 pm
Class, how many of you write cursive? Good. the three of you go up to the board and write the alphabet first separately,
then continuous, like word, and I'll do the same.
Unlike pre-18th century calligraphy, where letters were individual and schools taught a particular style that all were encouraged
to copy precisely, cursive is highly reflective of the individual writing it. It isn't easy to read but can be well worth
it because you'll never find in an e-mail the kinds of things you'll find in a personal letter.
There's something different, physically and psychologically between the interaction of hand, eye, pen and brain than there
is about two hands on a keyboard, eyes on the screen, and the parts of the brain that guide them. Maybe that will change
again with touch pads that do much more than act like a button, that allow drawing and maybe writing, or not, in a more direct
fashion than a key board. We'll see.
But none of so far reaches into the depths of ourselves, our hearts, our souls the way that writing by hand does, none of
allows the smooth uninterrupted flow from mind to ink on paper that draws out private views of the world, intimate secrets,
and the deep understanding of our own lives that no keyboard or rapid fire texting will ever achieve.
Composed on paper in cursive (where I still have issues with "typos")
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
splitting the story in half
I don't normally comment about my challenges, leaving it to the reader/writer to play with, but i thought I would say something
about the last one, the suggestion of cutting the story in half and starting there, with the rest as back story and all.
24 jul 12 @ 9:34 pm
I suggested that challenge because it's one of the reasons I recognized that the story I'm working on had too many independent
pieces that needed separate development, and were at their core separate stories. I had what I thought of as a story, a series
of events/scenes that built toward a conclusion, just needing some serious polish, maybe some better sequencing to focus it...
So I cut it in half as an attempt to give it better direction (which has worked for me in other stories with too much early
background that didn't contribute too much) and realized it wouldn't work because they were too much separated stories. Hence
book 2 was defined.
The first half seemed even less focused rather than more, and I needed a better end point, so I played again with making more
of it back story and tried to focus on what had been the second quarter, more closely built upon the backstory, related and
yet different groups of characters different places. The process of turning the first half into back story and backflashes
helped me to realize that other stuff within it needed to be the backflashes. Very enlightening.
So was doing a proper formatting and page count/word count. I knew I needed to build a bunch of scenes, but here I was with
about twice as much length as I realized, over my goal of 100,000, and big side branches also in need of development... so
I have smaller pieces to focus on, one at a time, and more clear story arcs, with still that big arc for the series. Keep
me busy for awhile!
The split also made clear some other issues that i was vaguely aware of but couldn't quite define. Among other things, I
have this overly idealic love interest for my protagonist, and was wondering how to put him more into the story, but really,
he doesn't have to be an actor in present time. he really works better as the impossible dream, the unattained ideal, the
true love worth fighting and dying for, even just the hoped for first kiss. He can br that through several stories, the motivating
force instead of a player.
It also reminded me to look at the bigger picture in a different light. It's a science fiction story, but I am reminded how
fantasies become epics... and its the first of my science fiction novels that takes place in so many ships and planets, another
sign that it really was more than one story. How many worlds can be properly developed in a single book, after all?
Writer's challenge: Take a scene and make sure it is fully developed with all its key parts: characters, mood, setting, starting
Saturday, July 21, 2012
oh, yeah, rebuilding the story
The book I've been revising is getting massively revised. Ater much thought and play with defining the core story for myself,
I decided that I hadn't so much written a novel that needed polishing, as a series that needs much serious work including
development of side characters, settings, and story twists, and that I had three separate stories, each of which will be book
size by the time I develop them properly, all before I get to what I was thinking of as the second book...
21 jul 12 @ 8:23 pm
I thought of the sections as complications and side plots, and I suspect I will have to build in some new twists and forces
of conflict in the now separate sequels, but the first book already has plenty even without the sections that have been removed.
Some of it makes me consider future options, such as sequence, but I know many series don't get published in sequence, so
I push it aside. Got to finish one of them before worrying about publication for this series! I thought when I tackled it
that it might soon join those waiting for agent or publisher, but no, you'll be hearing lots about the revision process for
Regarding publication... I'll just say that it's hard to think about agent hunting when story stuff is busying happily though
my mind, but I continue to prod myself to it a little at a time.
Writer's challenge: Take s story, cut it in half, start with the middle, and turn all the rest into backflashes, back story,
and bits of dialog about past events.
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Focusing on the story
Working on one that is too long, probably because it could be two stories, partly because it's the beginning... Most times,
I write a lot of stuff to introduce the scenario, the setting, the characters, the background of why they are where they are.
I usually end up chopping the front half a book worth as not being the story so much as the back story. This one is a little
messier because I already have a back story in the fist half of the book and If i turn it ALL into back story, half the book,
maybe more than half the book, is going on before "the story" starts.
18 jul 12 @ 8:51 pm
I have a few options. One is parallel stories, now and in the past starting way at the beginning of the back story. Another
is to lop off the first part and make it a first book of it's own. Making it a somewhat stand-alone ending will be the challenging
but there are some possibilities if I can find a climax and present the end point right. It has the advantage of focusing
the story on what brings the characters to that ending point, maybe a little further along than the current start, but not
vastly so, leading into the main bulk of the current present without seeming to be only half a story, which is rarely popular
these dsys. It also has the advantage of separating into two books two groups of characters, both of which i would like to
develop more rather than trimming out to make the book an acceptable length.
Writer's challenge: take a story you've drafted and outline it: can you identify the change that frames the start; a seeming
solution, rise in the scope of the problem, or other intensifying change; a climaz; an ending?
Can you trace each story element to the story line and identify how it supports and advances the story?
Saturday, July 14, 2012
Old movies often provide interesting story and character inspirations. They also offer lessons in what not to do in story
writing. One of the movies I caught was "The Vikings". It was actually an impressively realistic portrayal of
some of the costumes and warfare of the time in which the movie was set, including the visual style if not the construction,
of course, of the (limited) armor, leg wrappings, and layered tunics. The viking boats were about right, too.
14 jul 12 @ 10:49 am
The story line, though, was rather more twisted than it needed to be, and kept sliding of into almost Arthurian side lines,
with an heir to the thrown being spirited off (they never got as far as him becoming king, though), a Morgana character (the
only name from Arthurian stories and she was more like a Guenevere). Since it started with that and I didn't know the name
of the movie when I started watching it, it took awhile to realize that the real focus of the story was wholely elsewhere
(the babe ended up a slave to the Vikings and a kind of hero but in proper Norse fashion, the main character was a more violent,
less pleasant almost anti-hero, the true Viking).
Which all makes great story once past the misleading start, but it took a long time to get there because along the way the
story did a lot of wandering with not so much building toward the eventual climax. The side stories almost took over at times.
The twists and turns sometimes just wound back to where they were before, and one could see the script-writer's struggle
between making the classic American rags-to-riches hero, the anti-hero, for awhile an Englishman who seemed to just disappear
from a huge section of the last half took the lead, and the portrayal of the Viking culture as the main focus of the story.
They are all good story elements, but they can't all be the main focus, and if the writer doesn't know where the focus is,
the reader can't know either. I started ignoring it in favor of the quilt squares I was working on just because I'd about
given up on following the plot a couple of times, but eventually it got back on track and I paid closer attention again.
A couple of my longer story lines, I look at closely and repeatedly for just such negative impacts. Is it long because it
needs to be or is it long because I've wondered too far off course along the way? If I need to follow a side bar for awhile
because it is going to matter later, am I keeping the reader in touch with the center core somehow (by mention of the relationship
to off-stage characters, for example, and by showing the sidebar quickly and getting back to the main line?
Often it's because I'm explaining myself repeatedly (useful in a first draft, but has to be removed from the final), but sometimes
it's because I've kept in scenes that were fun to write, that I've polished to a T and don't want to through away, but that
don't really add to the story. While entertainment has it's own value, new movies don't show entire dances merely to have
an entertainment any more. If they include the whole length of a dance, the camera is on the faces and the focus is on the
dialog associated with the dance, not full body or focus on the intricate moves of the feet. That's because the feet are
just dancing, it's the dialog that is carrying the story and that's what the viewer (or the reader) is there to experience.
Writer's challenge: read a book or watch a movie and write a review of it.
Writer's challenge: make a list of all the most overused plot elements and write a story using one or more of them. What
made it easy? What made it hard? Can you remove the element now that the story is written?
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
I haven't found a good way to capture all my gathered n=information about agents so trying to pick and choose which ones should
get querries for which book isn't straightforward. I've learned to leave a low tech version of breakdcrumbs in the text so
that I can use find on page and the like to get back to something I noticed before but it still relies somewhat on my fallable
10 jul 12 @ 10:05 pm
It gets impressively fallable if I'm working on the list right before I go to sleep and I think it starts to merg iwth dream.
For example, i remembered a descriptive phrase for one of the agents i was considering and looked it up, but while I had
remembered it to be one of the agents who listed virtually every genre including literary fiction and who was specifically
looking for new authors, maybe new authors with were being nonconformist, though I wasn't sure about that last. AS it turns
out, the phrase was in fact in a listing of an agent looking very specifically for a narrow range of fiction which did not
include literary; and the nonconformity was a different agent.
Sometimes I wonder if I should have my characters have the same sort of distorted memory of events and I've played with the
idea but most often I've decided that it is too difficult to make clear to the reader that it isn't a mistake on the author's
part rather than that of the characters, and that there is plenty of opportunity to make just such a mistake. I know some
authors have purposely done something of the sort to make some sequence work better in a sequel and I grant them the privilege,
as a reader, so long as it isn't too major and that I would probably have to really hunt for the discrepancy if i didn't already
like the author's writing so well that I had read the books numerous times.
Writer's prompt: I could sleep a week after a day like today. It started out so...
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Agent hunting re-energized
In my goal and progress review, i discovered that I could be avoiding something even when I was telling myself I was making
progress. it applies to agent hunting, too. I was working on synopses and such, but really, it was as much a way to avoid
as tackle agent hunting, so I got myself online and went through several candidates and got back to the real core of finding
agents: choosing candidates for various stories, finding out their individual requirements and interests, and then writing
the querries and sending out the packages.
3 jul 12 @ 10:00 pm
I have now identified another batch of candidate agents, and need to check out their requirements for submission, a huge step
forward and one that really didn't take much time or effort: just focusing a little time and effort instead of wandering off
on things that gave the illusion of being easier or more pleasant. In some ways, it's fun to try to decide which books they'd
like best based on their comments, specified interests, and blurbs on books they've been the agents for, bare enough clues
but something to work with. Next, the packages and query letters again.
Writer's challenge: Review one of your stories or books one last time and submit it.
Writer's prompt: Everyone says Mondays are bad, but really, I find.... write.
Sunday, July 1, 2012
One of my goals of being on line and blogging and all is keeping up with the times: fellow writers, the publishing market,
the teen and youg adult culture since that's where the audience for much of my writing is expected to be. It's not exactly
something you can research direction, but being on the internet gives me a chance to interact with a wider range of age groups
than in my day-to-day life.
1 jul 12 @ 4:04 pm
There are other ways to keep up with the times, too. Someone awhile back suggested listening to modern music and other media
as one way of "feeling young" in rapidly changing times. I was listening to a random radio station today more or
less for that purpose. It wasn't bad. The station I picked seemed to like songs that mixed things up, that had chunks of
rap interspersed between something melty with waves of synthesizer and guitar poured over a classic rock beat else had more
classic rock and new wave chunks with alternating female and male voices with only hints of duet between to suggest it was
the same song.
Storywise, it made me think of a couple that I am working on, both more playful than I have managed so far, (though the music
didn't come across as playful) and where I have a strong contrast between several more or less central characters, and who
take turns in the POV role in fairly rapid succession in one, a bit less so in the other. It made me wonder if more alternative
POVs a bit earlier in the story would be good for keeping the attention of younger teens accustomed to rapid changes and multi-tasking.
More commonly in the books I've read, they stick to one character for large blocks, then a large block of another character,
maybe not getting back to the first character or even their life (from another POV) for half the book.
Writer's challenge: write a scene with a character half your age: bonus for doing it from that person's POV.